Seek out ‘living history’ before it’s too late

WWII Museum, New Orleans

The National World War II Museum in New Orleans

With Veterans Day near, I got an e-mail and a phone call last week from the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, which is running a campaign urging young Americans to seek out WWII vets and get their personal stories. It won’t be long before the aging warriors are gone.

The messages cited sobering statistics: WWII vets are dying at the rate of 797 a day. An estimated 291,176 vets will die this year. Pennsylvania has 109,827 WWII veterans. In 2020, an estimated 13,960 will remain.

Here’s what Gordon “Nick” Mueller, the museum’s president and CEO, has to say: “America’s families need to hear the stories of our Greatest Generation These citizen soldiers were witnesses to one of history’s most momentous events, and they have much to convey about courage, teamwork, service and sacrifice, especially to our younger generations. We need to hear them now because there’s not much time left to listen.”

I’m on board with that, which is why I’m passing this information on to you.

The museum lists these six ways to “talk to living history:”

  1. Talk to a family member who served in WWII. Tape or record his or her recollections.
  2. Ask your friends and neighbors if they have family members who served and who might want to talk about it with your family or a small group of interested people. 
  3. Reach out to local VFW posts, American Legion chapters, and Veterans Administration Hospitals. They may know of veterans willing to speak about their experience or suggest ways to volunteer to help veterans.
  4. Inquire at your place of worship about members who may be WWII veterans. After services, a church or a synagogue resource room is often a convenient place to meet.
  5. Remember the home front. It wasn’t just the men in uniforms who won the war. Millions of women worked in defense plants across the country and still have vivid memories of living with blackouts, Victory Gardens and rationing.
  6. Visit the National World War II Museum. The New Orleans campus is filled with artifacts, large and small. Most important, many of the docents are World War II veterans who will answer your questions.  Additional information can be found at the Museum’s website, www.nationalww2museum.org.

Speaking of WWII vets, I had a blunder in my blog last week and in a story I wrote for The Morning Call about a Lehigh Valley veterans’ bus trip to Washington, D.C. I wrote that Douglas MacArthur is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Several hawk-eyed folks set me straight in e-mails and phone calls. MacArthur is buried in the MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk, Va. His father, Arthur Jr., and older brother, Arthur III, are buried at Arlington. I saw an Arthur MacArthur stone and thought it marked Douglas’ grave.

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